Perched atop cap Diamant, surveying the St. Lawrence River, Québec City is one of the landmarks of North American history.
Samuel de Champlain saw the potential of this natural citadel, and founded a fur-trading post here in 1608. As religious institutions and government buildings sprang up within the fortifications of the Upper Town, merchants and craftsmen settled in the Lower Town alongside the River. Québec City was a valuable prize sought after many times in the wars of the 17th and 18th centuries. When it finally fell to the English in 1759, New France became a British colony.
Québec City, the cradle of French civilization in North America, is today a busy seaport, an important centre of services and research, a cultural hot spot and, of course, the provincial capital. The remarkable parliament buildings (Hôtel du Parlement) are well worth a visit.
Inside the venerable old walls, visitors will find several fascinating museums, including the Musée de l'Amérique française, tucked away within the centuries-old walls of the Seminary, and two others telling the stories of the Ursuline and Augustine nuns. The Notre-Dame-de-Québec Basilica, with its rich art collection, features a superb sound and light show.
Make your way down to the Lower Town and you will come to Place-Royale, dating back to the earliest days of the colony. Despite their advanced age, this whole area and the adjacent Petit-Champlain quarter are very much alive and well, thank you, with an interpretation centre, art and craft boutiques, and many restaurants and bistros. Just next door, the Musée de la civilisation presents thematic exhibitions with a contemporary interactive approach. And while you're in the Old Port, why not hop aboard a cruise boat for a refreshingly different view of the city from a new vantage point?
If you decide instead to climb back up toward the Citadel dominating the city, you'll pass by the immortal Château Frontenac, with its medieval-looking gables and turrets. From there you will probably want to stroll the boardwalk of Terrasse Dufferin, with an incomparable view of the St. Lawrence. Keep walking and you'll come to the Plains of Abraham, also known as Battlefields Park. This vast green space wasn't always so peaceful: in fact, in 1759 it was the site of a clash between the French and British armies that marked a turning point in the history of North America. Here you will find the Musée du Québec, housing an important collection of Québec art and sometimes playing host to major international exhibitions.
For a change of scene, you can visit the Aquarium, close to the remarkable Québec Bridge, and the zoo, in Charlesbourg, two favourite spots with visitors both young and old.